Alyssa Luck - 2014 Program Participant

Sunset on the beach in northwest Australia.

One of my favorite memories from the North West Trip - it's usually super windy here, but that night, the water was like glass

What attracted you to the idea of studying abroad?

The idea of traveling, in the traditional sense, has never appealed much to me. I loved the thought of seeing new places and experiencing new cultures, but hopping around from place to place and living out of a suitcase for weeks on end seemed stressful and unfulfilling. To me, studying abroad presented the perfect opportunity to visit someplace new and actually get a feel for what life is like there, and I knew I might not get that chance again after finishing college.

Why did you choose Murdoch University?

I wanted to see as much of Australia as possible while I was abroad, and Murdoch's program does an amazing job facilitating travel opportunities. One big reason I chose this program was the opportunity to go on the North West Trip, which is a 10-day camping trip up the western coast of Australia and inland to Karijini National Park. The trip is organized by Murdoch specifically for study abroad and exchange students; I was able to see wilderness that even most Australians never get the chance to see.

What was your favorite part about Australia?

The weather! I was at Murdoch during their winter and spring, so the weather stayed between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit pretty much the entire time, and it was usually sunny and breezy and never humid. The beaches are also incredible, and the water is unbelievably blue no matter where you go. I also loved the trees and wildlife, even the birds, which most people found obnoxious.

What characteristics of your program made it unique? 

The location. I already mentioned the North West Trip, which takes you to parts of Australia that even most Australians never get to see. Rottnest Island is also close by, which is the only place in the world you can see quokkas (look them up, they're adorable!). Living in Perth is a pretty unique experience in and of itself. It's the most isolated capital city in the world; not a lot of tourists make it out to WA, so it has a very different vibe from other cities like Sydney or Melbourne.

One last thing that seems like a small detail, but was actually really awesome, Murdoch's class schedule. They have three one-week study breaks during the semester, which is perfect for traveling. I used one for the North West Trip, one to visit the east coast, and one to visit Bali, which still left me time to visit Uluru and New Zealand after the semester was over.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

I was so impressed by the amount of individual attention I got as a study abroad student at Murdoch. The staff did an amazing job organizing logistics, like enrollment and orientation, as well as making sure we were all comfortable with our new living situations. They also facilitated a bunch of barbecues and outings to different parts of Perth and Fremantle to help us acclimate to life in Australia and make friends with other uni students. I really can't say enough good things about how Murdoch's program is run.

At the top of Mount Augustus in Western Australia

Also from the North West Trip, on top of Mount Augustus

What was a typical day like for you?

I have to say, life in Australia was pretty great. A day in the life for me included going to class in the morning, then grabbing lunch, and taking the bus and train to Cottesloe beach for the rest of the day with some friends. At night I'd probably go hang out at someone's flat, go dancing in Fremantle, or grab some drinks at the university tavern (yes, universities in Australia have taverns). Some days, I didn't have class at all (there's typically less contact time in Australian universities), in which case I'd spend all day at the beach if the weather was nice.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time? 

Definitely all the trips I took! The North West Trip was the best by far, but I also had a blast visiting the Pinnacles and the Swan Valley wine region, which were both day-trips organized by Murdoch with the same company that does the North West Trip. We also took a trip to Caversham Wildlife Park, where we got to pet kangaroos and koalas and see a ton of wildlife.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I stayed at the Murdoch University Village, which was not technically on-campus, but was within easy walking distance of class. The best part was definitely the fact that most of the other study abroad students lived there too, along with a bunch of Australians, so it was really easy to meet people. The Village organized a bunch of activities, from parties and barbecues to a fancy ball on a cruise on the Swan River.

The village also had a pool, which was a great place to hang out with friends when the weather got warmer, and the lounge by the pool had ping pong and a pool table. I also spent a decent amount of time at the rec center, where they had a basketball court, volleyball courts, and a piano. I don't think it would've been nearly as easy to make friends if I had been living somewhere else.

Now that you're home, how would you say studying abroad has impacted your life?

Well, I can confidently say that I can navigate air travel with ease and aplomb. I can also drive on the left side of the road, use the metric system, and understand that arvo somehow means afternoon. And I've learned that I can move someplace foreign to me, not knowing anyone, and feel completely at home there five months later. But those things don't really explain why I still miss Australia every single day.

Maybe it's the way the sun sets over the Indian Ocean. Maybe it's because the stars in northwest Australia are like none I've ever seen before, and may never see again. Maybe it's the fact that their birds sound like a cross between angry goats and crying babies, and make me laugh without fail every time I hear them (I'm not kidding). If I'm being honest, my time in Australia was more or less a five month vacation, and really, who wouldn't miss that?

What really impacted me and has stuck with me after returning home is the way Australians approach life. The United States as a whole has a very go-go-go, competitive, achievement-focused mentality, which can be stressful and exhausting. Australia, on the other hand, is so much more laid back and lighthearted, and more focused on the present moment than on future goals. This mentality isn't always better (an Australian pointed out to me that you don't see many world-renowned inventors or entrepreneurs coming out of Australia), but it's a mentality that I definitely needed more of in my life.

And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the lasting impact on my life due to the friends I met abroad. I got to know people from Australia, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, South Africa, Kazakhstan, France, Canada, and all over the U.S., and was amazed at how easy it was to get close with everyone. Since being home, I've already visited three of the friends I made in Australia, and I know we'll stay in touch for a long time. It blows my mind how, if it weren't for Murdoch University, none of us would have ever met each other.

My semester abroad truly was a life changing experience, and I know I'll always have a second home in Perth.

Students posing by kangaroos in Australia

I got to see a lot of these lil' fellas

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I hadn't planned quite so much travel ahead of time. I had my three study breaks more or less planned out before I even left for Australia, and I booked my flights and tours pretty early in the semester. But a lot of my friends ended up planning trips together later on, and I missed out on some opportunities to travel with them because I had already booked other trips.

I did end up changing some of my plans so I could go to Bali with a bunch of other study abroad students during the third study break, and that was one of the best decisions I made while I was there. I am glad I got to do some traveling alone, because I had never done it before and it was a great experience. But just remember that the places you'll go will always be there, and you'll have many more opportunities to travel alone. However, you'll probably never get another opportunity to travel with the friends you make while you're abroad.